April 20, 2001

The Missing Parents Bureau

Stories about the legacy of absent parents. We hear four cases from the files of the Missing Parents Bureau.


Host Ira Glass talks with Cate, a white woman with a black, adopted, seven-year-old son, Glen. Sometimes Glen threatens that he's going to return to his real family—royalty, in Africa. The only thing is, Glen's not adopted from Africa. He's adopted from Chicago. But this is the way it goes: Even if there are real parents out there somewhere, sometimes it's more comforting for a kid to believe in a fantasy. (3 minutes)
Act One

Better Left To The Imagination

Most sperm banks provide all sorts of information about their donors: Education level, medical background. They even have videotaped interviews and recorded answers to essay questions. But not all clients take advantage of this information. In fact, lots of women choose to avoid it. Reporter Alix Spiegel talks with single women who are planning to get pregnant with the help of a sperm bank and finds that they all wrestle with the question of how much they want to know about the fathers of their kids—and how much they want their kids to know. (20 minutes)

Alix's story was produced in part with a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Recorded at Chicago's Audi Home Juvenile Detention Facility, the song was part of a show put on by Chicago's Music Theatre Workshop.


“Life Without a Father” by Travolta W., Kevin G., and Keith L
Act Two

Tell It To The Void

We hear a series of letters that originally appeared on the brief-lived, little-known, but well-loved webzine Open Letters. They're written by a woman who signs her name as "X" and are addressed to the father of her adolescent son. X has no idea where to send the letters, but she keeps writing.

Since the letters' original publication on the Internet, X has decided to reveal her identity. Her name is Miriam Toews, and she's author of the book Swing Low, A Life. Her letters were read for us by Alexa Junge. (17 minutes)
Act Three

I'm An Orphan; Don't Tell My Mom

When Starlee Kine was a kid, she wanted to be a child star so badly that she signed up for an acting class with a famous acting teacher named Kevin McDermott. One of the class's exercises was to develop a character with a troubled past, and a real psychologist would come in for a session of character group therapy. Starlee chose to take on the character of an orphan. In fact, Starlee remembers that everyone else in her class did too. Twenty years later, she visits her old acting teacher in Los Angeles and discovers that for some reason, kids today don't want to be orphans. (9 minutes)